I don’t like licorice.
But, then again, these aren’t licorice.
They have that same smooth black look, but they aren’t the same.
No, black Wine Gums aren’t even actually black. If you look closely, you’ll see they’re a deep purple.
I’d roll the black Wine Gum in my hand and trace the crown on its front. Eventually, I’d scoop it up and hand it to my dad who was driving.
They are his favourite.
“Thanks Tash,” he’d mumble as he popped it into his mouth. His brow furrowing at something on the road up ahead.
“No problem,” I’d reply.
It used to irritate me when someone said something was, “No problem.”
Why didn’t they say, “It was my pleasure” or “you’re welcome?”
Too formal I suppose but, when my dad started saying it, it grew on me.
Whenever he said it to me it felt warm and deep. It tugged on my memories and pulled me towards him in some inexplicable way.
Snow blew up and gently hit the windshield as the steady rhythm of the tires took us closer to our destination.
Music played faintly. My dad went through a real Enrique Iglesias phase and I could hear him serenading some potential lover in the background.
The wind howled as dawn kissed the edge of the horizon and I could see the first of many turns to the airport up ahead.
I glanced at my dad.
His eyes were moistening as they always did when it was time to say goodbye.
“Don’t be sad,” I’d say every time.
He’d always reply, “I just miss you that’s all. I want to spend more time with you.”
We’d drive in silence for a few seconds and I would think back to when I was a little girl.
Little flashbacks came to me. I remembered trying to learn the days of the week, picking mini tomatoes outside of his clinic in South Africa, hearing his laugh, watching his reflection in a mirror as he rode a stationary bike.
Random memories crowded my brain reaching for my attention. A lifetime of love swimming to the surface.
“You must just be safe,” he’d say as the airport came into sight ahead. There it was. The quintessential parenting line if there ever was one.
“Oh yeah,” I’d laugh. “You know me…all about the risk management these days. I’m like an old lady. I’m always careful.”
I knew his fear came from a place deeper than where normal parental concern usually lies. It wasn’t a floating idea that lingered on the edges of his brain.
I knew that.
It was a gnawing paranoia born from losing both his parents in childhood and in having his brother murdered a few years ago. It was a well of fear demanding to be filled with needless worry.
I passed him another black Wine Gum. He nodded his appreciation and I popped a red one in my mouth. The car was so quiet our normal chewing made us sound like wild animals.
He was right to be worried, I thought to myself.
I was the opposite of most children. My teenage years were pretty tame. It was my late twenties that caused the trouble.
After all, I left a perfectly good job in radio broadcasting to run away to Honduras to become a scuba diving instructor.
Now I was working at a professional fight camp in Thailand and I’d only stopped home for a quick Christmas break in Canada. I was regularly drinking with ladyboys, dodging traffic on a scooter, flirting voraciously and hanging around professional fighters and their temper tantrums.
But I was careful in my own way.
My father had worked hard to bring me from South Africa to Canada. He’d sacrificed to put us kids through school and to give us every opportunity we could want or need. I knew the stress of work was putting a strain on his heart. I knew the long hours were draining precious years from his life.
Yes, I was wild…but I would never be so wild as to endanger myself enough to break his heart. Parents are precious things – annoying and sometimes crazy, yes – but precious none-the-less.
By caring for ourselves, we care for them.
We pulled up to the terminal.
My dad never came inside. I think the tears kept him firmly in the “do not park here or stop for any damn reason other than dropping off a passenger” zone.
The car idled and we took a few seconds. He was steadying his breath and I was making mentally sure that I had packed my passport.
I reached into the Wine Gum packet and pulled out the last black one. I handed it to him and he closed it in his hand.
Seeing this routine, a boyfriend had once asked me why I didn’t like the black Wine Gums.
I told him I did.
In fact, they are my favourite, but they are my dad’s favourite too.
And I think that’s what love is. It’s giving the best of ourselves. It’s sacrificing so that someone else can be happy even if it means you might not be quite as happy in the process.
My dad taught me that – not through a lesson, but through his actions.
We opened our doors simultaneously and pulled my luggage from the back. With bags around me we hugged. Both of our eyes were moist.
He held out his hand, flipped it around and opened his fist. The black wine gum stared up at me and he thrust it towards me.
“Thanks,” I said and popped it into my mouth.
“No problem,” he replied as he turned to go back to the car.